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Army Chief dismisses criticism, insists on need for public cooperation to overcome corona epidemic

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… latest cluster exceeds 1800; its eruption still a mystery

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Army Chief Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva strongly defended the armed forces role in the overall government effort to bring the fresh corona eruption under control.

Those who complained of the way the war-winning military responded to the growing crisis conveniently ignored the enormity of the task and the challenges faced by them.

Acknowledging there could be some shortcomings in the wake of what the media called the ‘Brandix eruption,’ Lt. Gen. Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), assured that the military and the police were doing everything possible to bring the situation under control. The Army Chief said so in response to The Island queries regarding public criticism directed at the military for being insensitive to those compelled to undergo quarantine at state-run facilities.

The wartime GoC of the celebrated 58 Division said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tasked the military with the daunting task early this year when corona epidemic erupted. “In spite of difficulties, the armed forces and the police assisted the health administration to bring the first corona wave under control. Now, we are battling obviously a far bigger second eruption,” the head of the national covid task force said.

The Army Chief said that those who found fault with government efforts expressed views on the social media. Lt. Gen. Silva recalled how various interested parties criticized the war effort until the very end.

“They questioned our strength and capacity to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Similarly, we are being criticized by a few but overall the vast majority of people have faith in the military,” Lt. Gen. Silva said.

A section of the civil society, too, is critical of the way, particularly garment workers were treated.

Responding to another query, the CDS said that in spite of the Brandix eruption, the government apparatus managed to sustain the covid treatment project. Since the first detection made by the Gampaha Hospital in the new eruption of the highly contagious disease , the health authorities had recorded nearly 1,800 cases, mostly Brandix workers attached to its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility.

Lt. Gen. Silva said that most of the affected had been in the Gampaha district at the time of the onset of the second wave and the situation could have been much better tackled if the health administration, the military and police received the anticipated cooperation. Unfortunately, those vulnerable and stricken by corona habitually tried to deny having had contacts with other people, hesitated to divulge where they visited et al, thereby had made things difficult for the health staff and the armed forces.

Lt. Gen. Silva said that the military health staff had been fully utilized to run facilities where approximately 10,000 were accommodated so far in military run quarantine centres.

Lt. Gen. Silva explained efforts made by the Navy to thwart illegal boat movements across the Palk Straits as part of the overall measures in place to meet the covid-19 threat.

Asked whether the government intended to expand the curfew now imposed in 14 police areas in Gampaha Division (Yakkala, Pallewela, Weliweriya, Weeragula, Minuwangoda, Veyangoda, Pugoda, Nittambuwa, Mirigama, Malwathuhiripitiya, Dompe, Kiridiwela, Ganemulla and Gampaha), two police areas in Kelaniya Division (Kandana and Ja-ela) and three in Negombo Division (Divulapitiya, Seeduwa and Negombo), the Army Chief said that a lot would depend on cooperation extended by the public. “Let me tell you, there are isolated cases in many districts outside Gampaha, Kelaniya and Negombo police divisions. If people really cooperated with the government, the situation can be gradually brought under control,” the Army Commander said. But, if the situation deteriorated for want of public cooperation, the police would have no other option but to expand curfew, he said.

Commenting on successful battle against the first wave and the ongoing second, Lt. Gen. Silva said that the second was a quite a challenge as it threatened a major revenue source. Pointing out that the declaration of curfew in the Katunayake police area on Thursday (15) at 5 am, Sri Lanka’s top military officer explained determined efforts made to sustain operations at export-oriented factories.

Lt. Gen. Silva acknowledged that the ongoing operation was far bigger than the one carried out early this year.

Contrary to earlier reports and indications the 39-year-old Brandix worker tested positive on Oct 2 at the Gampaha hospital was certainly not the first to be stricken with the deadly virus at the facility. Authorities were yet to establish the cause of the Brandix eruption, the Army Chief said.

“Inquiries are continuing,” Lt. Gen. Silva said, adding that there was no better apparatus than the armed forces and police to work with health administration to overcome the danger to the entire country.

 



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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